How It Works:

Canadian professor James Naismith invented basketball in December 1891 as an indoor winter game at Springfield College in Massachusetts. Naismith had peach baskets nailed to each end of the school’s gym and made the objective of the game to throw a soccer ball into the baskets. The first game consisted of two 15-minute halves divided by a five-minute break, with the 18 men in his class separated into two teams of nine.

Initially forbidding dribbling, the game quickly evolved to something resembling the modern version. Dribbling became accepted, the team size dropped to five and field goals were changed from three to two points. The soccer ball was replaced by a larger leather-covered ball and instead of peach baskets (from which the ball was retrieved manually) there were nets attached to metal rims.

After being a demonstration sport at St. Louis 1904, basketball made its official Olympic debut at Berlin 1936. A men’s tournament has been featured at every edition of the Games since then while women’s basketball was first included at Montreal 1976. Basketball has been on the Pan American Games program since the inaugural edition in 1951, with the women debuting four years later.

The landscape of Olympic basketball was changed in 1989 when a ruling permitted professionals, including those from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to play beginning at Barcelona 1992.

International rules differ from those in the NBA in some notable areas. Each game consists of four 10-minute quarters (versus 12-minutes in the NBA). In the event of a tie at the end of regulation time, the game will continue with as many five-minute overtime periods as necessary. At 28m long and 15m wide, the international court is slightly smaller than that of the NBA (28.65m x 15.24m). The international three-point line is an arc of radius 6.75m from the basket (versus 7.24m in the NBA). The height of the net is the same under both rules, 3.05m above the floor.